Building & Safety

Building & Safety

Permit Tips for Homeowners

Remodeling or adding improvements to your home?

Building ImagesHome owners thinking about remodeling their home or adding other improvements, such as decks, spas or retaining walls, many times have a number of questions about building permits. First, take a look at these links to see the kinds of projects that may require a permit.


Obtaining the permit is just the first step in the process. In this step, you may need to create plans to submit to the department, make a plot plan for your property showing the improvements, and show the type of construction you’ll be using. The City has handouts to help you through this process.

Once plans are approved, you’re required to build the project to those plans. If any changes are made to the plans, they must be made with the City’s approval. The second half of the process is the inspection of the work. For more information about the inspection process go to Inspections - Frequently Asked Questions.

The following information is designed to give home owners basic knowledge of when construction permits and other approvals are required by the City of Riverside. It also answers some of the most frequently asked questions and offers tips from the city. The City handout Owner-Builder Helpful Tips is also a useful source of information.

How do I get a Building Permit?

After construction plans are completed, submit the plans for plan check at the Building & Safety Division at City Hall. Often, small projects can be approved over-the-counter; larger projects may require more time to allow for review by various City departments. Usually, replacement roofs, doors or windows, air conditioners or heater can be approved over-the-counter. For a complete list of over-the-counter type projects, go to Over-the-Counter Plan Review Thresholds.

What do I need to know if my home is in a historical district?

If you are in a historical district or special planning area, contact the Planning Division for other City requirements, or contact the Building and Safety Division if you need further information about permit requirements.

How long does it take to get a permit?

Permit issuance periods vary. Some projects can be fully permitted over-the-counter, meaning a return trip won’t be needed. Some projects, however, require that plans be left for additional review. For a complete list of over-the-counter type projects, go to Over-the-Counter Plan Review Thresholds.

What agencies or departments will need to review my plans?

Other government agencies may need to review and approve your project. For example, septic systems require County Health Department approval as well as City approval. After your plans have been submitted, the City will route a set to each of the various City agencies that are required to review them. This is why we require that you submit multiple sets of plans. To learn more about the plan review process see Plan Review - Frequently Asked Questions.

What if I don’t get a permit?

If a permit, when needed, is not obtained before construction, you have violated city codes and regulations. You’ll be required to obtain permits for the work and expose all aspects of the work so that it can be inspected or you’ll have to return the structure or site to its original condition.

Complications may occur at time of sale. Many lenders will not fund a loan for the sale of a house if it has non-permitted construction. Sometimes non-permitted construction must be modified or torn down. For example, holes may have to be punched in walls to make sure the framing, wiring, and plumbing meet the code requirements.

Remember...construction codes were created for safety reasons. Work built without a permit can be unsafe, no matter how good it looks.

Who should obtain the permit?

Contractors licensed by the State of California or your authorized agent can obtain permits. The home owner can also obtain the permits. If an authorized agent of the home owner or of the contractor is going to be pulling the permits, then they must present an Authorized Agent form with notarized signatures at the time of permit issuance. For down-loadable Authorized Agent forms go to the General Information: Handouts/Drawings/Forms page of our web site.

Can I do the work myself or do I need to hire a contractor?

You can do the work yourself, but you must follow certain regulations. Among them are the following:

  • Workers’ Compensation
    If you will be hiring anyone, you may have to purchase Workers’ Compensation Insurance, which is available from a variety of agencies. If you won’t be hiring anyone, we’ll ask you to sign an "Owner-Builder Statement" to this effect. We can’t issue you a permit without either insurance or the completed Owner-Builder Statement.
  • Build to the plans
    Be sure to follow your approved plans, whether they are drawn by an architect or designer or are standard construction requirements given to you by the City. If you change the plans while building the structure, this will cause problems when the project is inspected. If you decide to make changes, check with the City’s plan review staff or your field inspector.
Who draws up the plans?

Plans for simple projects such as small single story houses, room additions and garages can usually by drawn up by qualified individuals such as draftspersons. Assuming that these simple projects are constructed within the parameters of the Residential Conventional Construction Requirements, engineering calculations to support the design will not be required. Other projects may require plans prepared and signed by a licensed architect or engineer.

What about a contractor?

The City recommends that you deal only with a contractor licensed by the State of California. Go to the Contractors State License Board web site for additional information, or call them at (800) 321-CSLB.

What about inspections?

It is your responsibility to call us for inspections at specific times during construction. You may have your contractor make the call, but it is still your responsibility, as the property owner, to make sure the inspections are made. Inspections are made during certain points in the project, depending on the work that’s being performed. For example, retaining walls require inspections of the footing, after block is laid and steel placed but before grouting, and when all work is finished. Remember. . . the project is not complete for legal purposes until it has passed the final inspection.

How long is a permit good for?

A building permit is valid for 180 days after it is issued. In addition, a 180- day extension may be granted by the Building Official. In most cases, a permit will not be expired unless the applicant has failed to call for an inspection and show progress on the project for a 360 day period. Once a permit is expired, you may be required to begin the permit process from the beginning and pay all of the applicable fees again, so it is wise to avoid permit expiration.

About Permits
Permits via Mail
General Information
Address:
3900 Main St. 3rd Floor
Riverside, CA 92522

Phone: (951) 826-5697

Fax: (951) 826-5622

Permits Issued
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